Sue Hendra Meet Keith.
Keith is a cat with a magic hat – or at least, that’s what the other cats think. But when Keith’s hat falls off one day, it seems that magic is still possible after all!
My wife bought this one for me as a joke Christmas present, as I share the protagonist’s name. The cover proudly proclaims that it’s “From the creator of Norman and Barry”, so Hendra clearly has a liking for traditional British names.
The book tells the story of Keith the cat, who one day has an ice cream cone dropped on his head. There’s no explanation as to where the ice cream comes from – perhaps it drops from space or pops in from an alternate universe. However, I have made a careful analysis of the artwork, and I believe that it is a three scoop vanilla, strawberry and chocolate cone with a flake and sprinkles.
Keith’s friends tease him about it, and to cover his embarrassment, he claims that the ice cream is in fact a magic hat (the flake conveniently fulfilling the role of a magic wand). He begins to perform tricks, all of which are simply coincidences, but his feline friends lap it up (pun intended).
Eventually, the cats are chased up a tree by a dog and they ask Keith to magic the dog away. Whilst thinking, the ice cream drops off Keith’s head and lands on the dog, who is then chased away by a swarm of very happy looking wasps. Keith is then pronounced the cats’ hero.
It’s only on a second reading that I noticed that the wasps gradually build up throughout the book – a clever bit of visual foreshadowing. In fact the art work is consistently excellent – bright colours and bold shapes with some nice characterisation on the faces.
The only niggle for me is the morality of the tale. On the one hand it shows a character who triumphs through his resourcefulness, but on the other it shows that lying can be a successful strategy. I’m not convinced it can just be called pretending or make-believe as the other cats seem to fully believe Keith’s assertion that the ice cream is a magic hat and he never says otherwise, even when they are in danger. Whilst lying arguably has real life benefits in some instances, I’m not sure this is the sort of lesson I want my three and four year olds to learn just yet. Verdict: A bright colourful and fun story, with some curious morality. Reviewed by Keith
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: July 2012
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book